With the middle set of fantasy football snake draft picks, it’s critical that you come prepared with an optimal and flexible approach. It’s less about deciding which players are good/bad (they are being drafted in Round 1 for a reason, after all) and more about building a strong foundation for success that sets the standard for your roster throughout the draft. Thinking about your player targets in Round 2 should already be on your mind before you make your selection at the start of Round 1.
That’s why preparing your tier lists — or leveraging FantasyPros’ built-in tiers and rankings — is so critical to success. However, it won’t always be that simple without a top-four pick, as is the case in this exercise.
The biggest question entering the middle of Round 1 in 2023 fantasy football drafts will undoubtedly be a debate between going RB, WR, QB, or Travis Kelce (if he falls) and how that impacts your drafts as the rounds progress. Obviously, your randomized draft slot between 1.05-1.08 — where there tends to be more variance than inside the top-four picks — will make for some exciting draft rooms.
That’s what I am considering “middle snake draft picks,” with 1.01-1.04 as the early snake picks and 1.09-1.12 as the late snake picks in traditional 12-team fantasy football leagues. I will be referring to Underdog and Fantasy Football Players Championship (FFPC Best Ball) as my average draft position (ADP) source — the latter, which is home to the 2023 FantasyPros Championship.
- Draft Targets for Every Round: Early | Middle | Late
- Fitz’s Draft Primers: QB | RB | WR | TE
- Fantasy Football Draft Strategy
- 2023 Fantasy Football Draft Kit
Strategy for Middle Snake Draft Picks (2023 Fantasy Football)
Let’s take a look at the fantasy football draft strategy for middle-round picks in snake draft formats.
Fantasy Football Snake Draft Strategy for Middle Picks
Let the Draft Begin.
Picking in the middle part of Round 1 tends to be the most difficult position to draft from. You miss out on the top four overall players, and waiting a while between picks is a disadvantage to coming away with your favorite players.
Even so, you can still bring forth a “hero-RB approach” should Falcons rookie running back Bijan Robinson be available on the board. His ADP ranges from five to ten overall. If not B-Rob, it’s usually Nick Chubb (who can be had in Round 2 times) or Austin Ekeler.
But after those RBs, I am likely pushing running back into Round 2. There are just too many top-tier WRs available in the middle of the first who I like — Cooper Kupp, A.J. Brown, Stefon Diggs, Tyreek Hill and Amon-Ra St. Brown — more than their RB counterparts.
Travis Kelce is also a strong option in the middle range (picks 5-9).
In Superflex, I think Justin Jefferson, Ja’Marr Chase and Kupp enter the player pool consideration in full-PPR, but I am still most likely selecting any remaining Tier 1 fantasy quarterbacks. With a top-7 pick, I am almost always going with a quarterback in Superflex. They won’t be available later in Round 2.
Round 1 Takeaways:
- Picking in the middle of Round 1 can be challenging due to missing out on top players and longer waits between picks.
- Consider a “hero-RB approach” with Bijan Robinson or Austin Ekeler as the top RB choice if available.
- Focus on top-tier WRs like Cooper Kupp, A.J. Brown, Stefon Diggs, Tyreek Hill and Amon-Ra St. Brown in the middle of the first round.
- In Superflex leagues, prioritize Tier 1, fantasy football quarterbacks.
If you grabbed a WR inside picks four through eight, your next selection will be your “hero-RB baby” from picks 17-20 in Round 2. Some combination of Jonathan Taylor, Tony Pollard or Derrick Henry should be ripe for the taking. But don’t be afraid to double down with stud WRs like Garrett Wilson or Jaylen Waddle – or go the WR route after selecting a RB from Round 1.
With a locked-and-loaded stud in your RB1 slot, you can shift focus to the other positions at WR or tight end. I like Mark Andrews as an option in the 29-32 pick range. In the middle of Round 3, I love Mark Andrews. Rhamondre Stevenson/Breece Hall can be nice hero RB targets if you went with a WR in Round 2
All in all, if you focus on drafting the three best overall players inside the top-36 (which will be WRs more often than not), you are setting a strong foundation for your team.
Round 3 is where we have typically seen the elite quarterbacks come off the board. But this year, we have already seen them rise into Round 2 based on the edge elite fantasy quarterbacks presented to drafters last season. However, as I laid out in my QB Best Ball Primer – as did Tom Strachan in his early approach to best-ball drafts last season – being the first to draft a quarterback doesn’t always grant you the best advance rate.
Tom said it best by defining the elite QBs’ win rate as “disappointing, to say the least,” entering 2022.
And he would be proven right. Only two of the QBs drafted inside the top-4 rounds finished with top-4 advance rates. Essentially a coinflip.
Meanwhile, Joe Burrow and Jalen Hurts were being drafted outside the first 5 rounds. And the other five quarterbacks with the highest advance rates from Round 1 were drafted outside the top 100 overall picks.
Value is still the name of QB, which is why I stress a pseudo-late-round “elite” quarterback strategy. Essentially getting the last or second-to-last quarterback with top-tier upside to capitalize on value. This will change based on where QBs fall in ADP, but I’d say Rounds 4-6 is the more appropriate range.
Burrow, Justin Fields and Justin Herbert tend to still be on the board in Rounds 4-5. I’d select whichever falls the furthest. Whether that be in Round 4 or at the beginning of the middle rounds (5-9).
Rounds 2-4 Takeaways:
- After selecting a WR in picks 4-8, target a “hero-RB” in the range of picks 17-20 in Round 2.
- Look for RBs like Jonathan Taylor, Tony Pollard or Derrick Henry in this range.
- Shift focus to WR or TE positions in Rounds 3 and 4 after securing a stud RB1.
- Consider players like Mark Andrews, Rhamondre Stevenson and Breece Hall in the middle rounds.
- Don’t be afraid to double down with stud WRs like Garrett Wilson or Jaylen Waddle – or go the WR route after selecting an RB from Round 1.
- Target breakout WRs and RBs in the middle rounds for added value.
In the middle rounds of drafts, it’s critical that you come prepared with an optimal and flexible approach. Following up on a strong start coming out of the early rounds is critical to your success. The player pool isn’t as strong as at the beginning of the draft, but the difference in hitting on the right guys in the range can make or break your roster.
Four rounds deep, you have already drafted a good chunk of your team. This is YOUR CORE. So, your strategy may differ slightly depending on the foundation you built during the early portion of your draft. Ergo, if already roster three strong running backs (or at least ones you spent high draft capital on) there’s virtually no need to address the position in any capacity. Depth – especially in leagues where you have access to the waiver wire – tends to be overrated in fantasy football.
However, the overarching approach to the middle rounds is going to remain static for the most part regardless of what you already did. The focus is still on drafting the “best player available” or BPA. Too many times drafters make the mistake of drafting for need in the middle-rounds – when the priority should be filling your roster will as many potential level jumpers or league-winners as humanly possible. Especially at the wide receiver position. Because it’s easy to find plug-in production. Focus on drafting players that have difference-making upside in their range of outcomes.
As I identified in the Best Ball WR Primer, the name of the game with wide receivers remains to scoop up value in the middle-to-later portions of drafts, with the position counting for the biggest part of your best-ball roster. Take advantage of WRs that fall in ADP, while other teams “reach” on running backs that they think they need. The same goes for the reverse narrative. Take advantage of RBs that fall in ADP while others reach on subpar wide receivers that they think they need.
In most 2023 drafts, you will be shocked at how quickly the WR position dries up despite the false narrative that the position is deep every year. It’s not deep. If anything, it’s extremely diluted, which makes it much more essential you draft the remaining wideouts toward the start of the middle rounds. You’ll feel (and perform) much better knowing that you aren’t trudging out WRs ranked outside the top 40 as your weekly WR3.
Wide receivers in the middle rounds are often the ones that tend to take massive leaps and vastly outperform their ADP. And when in doubt, just keep drafting WRs that have breakout potential. Chances are they all won’t hit…but all you need is one to hit big to reap the benefits.
Gravitate toward the pass-catchers in a high-powered offense with some target ambiguity versus the guy who has a more obvious high-end target floor in a bad offense. And do not shy away from the real-life No. 2 WRs…as these players often represent the best fantasy values because their ADPs are almost always suppressed as they aren’t their team’s “No.1.”
Some of my favorite WR targets from Rounds 5-9 (picks 50-100) include Drake London, Chris Godwin, Diontae Johnson, Brandon Aiyuk, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Tyler Lockett, Jahan Dotson, Jordan Addison, Gabe Davis, Zay Flowers, Quentin Johnston, Elijah Moore.
Only once you’ve got a plethora of breakout WRs to work from, I give you permission to dive back into the running back pool before we enter the double-digit rounds.
Because after WRs, breakout RBs are the next target in the middle rounds. Specifically, once the drafts enter the late RB2 early RB3 range (RB20-RB38) or RBs with a top-40 ADP. That group presented the greatest hit rate for fantasy running backs to return a mid-range RB2 (RB17.2) finish as I found in my article from 2022 titled, How to Identify Sleeper & Late-Round Running Backs to Target (2022 Fantasy Football).
Running backs that hit in this general range last season included: Josh Jacobs, Tony Pollard, Miles Sanders, Rhamondre Stevenson, Dameon Pierce, Devin Singletary, Kenneth Walker III, and Tyler Allgeier.
Keep in mind that the majority of RBs in this range can be found in my Tier 3. Here are some of my favorites in 2023: Cam Akers, Rachaad White, Dalvin Cook, James Conner, James Cook, Antonio Gibson, A.J. Dillon, Zach Charbonnet, Rashaad Penny, De’Von Achane, Khalil Herbert and Damien Harris.
You can find the full-tiered rankings in my 2023 fantasy football rankings.
For the remaining onesie positions, you are once again playing the value game. My favorite QB in the middle rounds is Deshaun Watson. An auto-pick for me in Rounds 7-8 if I need a QB.
The same approach goes for the tight end position. By zero means am I willing to draft a tight end in the middle rounds that doesn’t have elite upside. And again, they need to fall into ADP.
That’s why using tiered rankings is so critical to your success – as it helps you unearth draft values by preventing reaches.
For more information on why you need to “stay out of the middle” at tight end, check out my tight end primer.
The only tight ends I am actively targeting in the middle rounds (considering ADP) are Darren Waller and Kyle Pitts. Waller is an auto-pick for me in Round 7.
Rounds 5-9 Takeaways:
- Focus on drafting the best player available in the middle rounds.
- Wide receivers are crucial in best ball and 3-WR starting formats and tend to outperform ADP.
- Target breakout WRs with potential and pass-catchers in high-powered offenses.
- Consider breakout RBs in the late RB2 to early RB3 range.
- Be selective with QB and TE picks, targeting elite upside options while mitigating cost
- Stay out of the middle at the tight end position.
- Round 5: Bolster depth at WR with guys like Drake London, Mike Williams, Christian Watson, D.J. Moore, Chris Godwin and Brandon Aiyuk.
- Round 6: Target an elite QB. However, remember that there are still plenty of great quarterback options in the following rounds, so don’t feel pressured to draft one in Round 6.
- Cam Akers, Rachaad White and James Conner are three of the cheapest starting bell-cow RBs you draft from Round 6-plus. Perfect for zero and hero RB builds.
Rounds 10 and Beyond
You should be actively implementing “what if” thought exercises in the late rounds of your fantasy football drafts. Simply put, “if “x” happens, what would that do to “x” player’s value.” Again, this is most commonly seen from injuries, with players seeing spikes in production/value when a teammate goes down. Some players have that factored into their ADPs with injury-prone teammates, but others do not. And at the end of the day, it’s full-contact football. Guys we expect to get hurt and guys we don’t expect to get hurt are going to miss games. We can’t project when/if said injuries are going to happen, but what savvy drafters can do is stockpile the back of their drafts with talented players that are being discounted because of their situation.
Worry not about what Player A’s role will be in Week 1 when you draft them in the late double digits. Chances are that doesn’t matter. Focus on what’s in the players’ range of outcomes should he see an expanded role as the season wanes. Fantasy championships aren’t won in September or October.
That was one of the biggest takeaways from my 2022 season recap article. Don’t overvalue early-season opportunities versus talent. I fell for the Romeo Doubs‘ hype train and didn’t invest nearly enough in Christian Watson, even though everything that was not written by a Packers training camp beat reporter clearly showed that Watson was the superior prospect.
And all it took was for him to get healthy and for Doubs to underwhelm as a Day 3 pick – not shocking – for everybody else to get on board.
Just buy the dip on talent when the ADP is so suppressed due to the situation. And don’t forget about the players that delivered worthwhile performances in the past when they were presented with opportunities. Being a proven asset in some capacity matters.
Amon-Ra St. Brown, Brandon Aiyuk, Marquise Brown, Chris Olave, Rashid Shaheed, Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton, Garett Wilson, Richie James Jr., Greg Dortch, and Elijah Moore all either increased their production or commanded targets at a high rate due to injuries to teammates around them this past season. Not all of them will be late-round picks, but some definitely will. And those are the archetype of players you should be looking to target.
Some of my favorite late-round WRs (outside the top 100) include Elijah Moore, Zay Flowers, Jameson Williams, Skyy Moore, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Nico Collins, Jakobi Meyers, Darnell Mooney, Zay Jones, Jonathan Mingo, D.J. Chark Jr., Hunter Renfrow, Isaiah Hodgins, Richie James Jr., Deonte Harty, Jayden Reed, Marvin Mims Jr., Jalin Hyatt, Darius Slayton and Justyn Ross.
I also believe in another thought exercise of,” He’s the discount version of Player X.” I find it very useful.
Players that have defined roles that go extremely late can also be beneficial targets. The constant bombardment of “upside-centric” analysis make these players not talked about enough. Even though players entering 2022 like Zay Jones and Curtis Samuel – clearly defined roles on offense with spikes of proven production – were strong contributors to their rosters. There’s an upside to playing an every-down role on an offense. Ahem *JuJu Smith-Schuster.*
Hence, why chasing the upside-centric dragon is not wrong. You want upside on your fantasy football teams. But some balance never hurts. Because “only-upside” players typically also have extremely shaky floors. And too many guys that fail to fire will leave your squad helpless.
Last note. Chase players that project for air yards and rookies. Air yards tell us how often a player is being used downfield, which is part of the formula when it comes to spike weeks of fantasy production. Particularly at WR and TE.
Some potential late-round guys in 2023 drafts that commanded a high end of their team’s air yards (20% or higher) in 2022 include Darius Slayton, Van Jefferson, Nico Collins, D.J. Chark, Alec Pierce, Terrace Marshall, Corey Davis, Marvin Jones, Tyquan Thornton, Michael Gallup, Mack Hollins, Rondale Moore, and Chase Claypool.
When it comes to rookies, you need to be aggressive in drafting them throughout the summer months. I mentioned this in both the RB best-ball primer and WR best-ball primer. Specifically for rookie WRs, it is even more important.
Their ADPs often do not fully capture the upside they possess. The ADP acts more like a hedge or median projection when first-year players of recent years are so much more boom-or-bust. They either hit in a big way – Garrett Wilson, Jahan Dotson, George Pickens, Drake London, Chris Olave, Christian Watson – or drastically underwhelm – Skyy Moore, Treylon Burks, Jameson Williams. They are lottery tickets that you need to always draft as they are frequently discounted outside the top 36. Take full advantage.
Keep in mind that rookie WRs’ roles often grow as the season progresses. That makes them the perfect backfill targets for best ball formats that have prize structures heavily based on the final few weeks of the season. My favorite strategy is drafting veterans and rookie WRs from the same teams. Because it’s a very underrated strategy, that helps you capture an immense upside. Also, guarantees you at least one “hit” from each WR group you draft.
Last year would have looked like this from some of the top guys.
- Elijah Moore, Garrett Wilson
- Michael Thomas, Chris Olave
- Amon-Ra St. Brown, Jameson Williams
- Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson
- Allen Lazard, Christian Watson
Hardly did we see both guys hit. But the fact that the presence of just one other pass-catcher suppressed the cost of the other, makes it easier for them to smash their ADPs.
If you missed out on a quality tight end in the early rounds then chasing quantity with multiple guys in the late rounds is your new strategy.
This is essentially my Tier 4 of tight ends, which ranges widely from TE15-TE32. As briefed in a previous rookie Mock Draft, you don’t want to overextend yourself for any of these TEs because the production will likely be negligible at best, drafting toward the beginning of the tier versus the end. So just wait and take shots on multiple tight ends.
Ideally, ones with either a path for receiving volume, an every-down role, and/or above-average athleticism.
My favorite late-round tight ends to target (outside top-10 runs) include Dalton Schultz, Greg Dulcich, Dalton Kincaid, Gerald Everett, Sam LaPorta and Mike Gesicki.
Over the past two seasons, Schultz ranks 6th in points per game, 7th in target share (17%), 15th in target rate per route run (21%), fourth in receptions, 10th in yards per route run and 6th in route participation, despite facing FIERCE target competition in Dallas.
With Prescott under center (31 games played) Schultz was averaging nearly 13 fantasy points per game in PPR (12.87). That would have ranked second among all TEs in 2022. Nearly top-12 WR fantasy-like numbers.
In 2021, Schultz scored nearly as many fantasy points per game as CeeDee Lamb and Amari Cooper with Prescott at QB. In 2022, he posted a 24.4% target rate per route run, which would have ranked sixth.
Among the late-round QBs, it’s critical that you draft knowing what their schedule is to open the season. Because they are non-established studs, you need to know they have plus-matchups working in their favor to trust them in your starting lineup.
And finally, addressing the late-round running backs. Do not handcuff your running backs in traditional formats, where you have access to the waiver wire. However, you do want to handcuff your RBs in the best ball format. A No. 2 RB filling in for an injured starter who got you to the playoffs could be your key to victory in Week 17.
Other things to keep in mind:
- Identify running backs with the potential to see/possess goal-line roles in high-scoring offenses. Pinpointing a team’s primary red-zone back is an easy way to hit on a fantasy running back.
- If you are fading the “starter,” you should naturally be higher on one of their backups.
- Target impending free agent running backs. Notable free agents at the end of the 2023 season include Derrick Henry, Austin Ekeler, D’Andre Swift, Jonathan Taylor, Cam Akers, J.K. Dobbins, A.J. Dillon and Antonio Gibson. Joe Mixon and Clyde Edwards-Helaire have club options in their contracts but are likely playing their final seasons in their respective teams.
- Aim for running backs on teams who have no clear-cut starter — ambiguous backfields. This is where breakout running backs are often found.
Outside the top 100 ADP, my favorite running backs include Zach Charbonnet, Rashaad Penny, De’Von Achane, Khalil Herbert, Damien Harris, Jaylen Warren, Kendre Miller, Devin Singletary, Kenneth Gainwell, Roschon Johnson, Ezekiel Elliott, Chuba Hubbard, Leonard Fournette, Jeff Wilson Jr., Kareem Hunt, Gus Edwards, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Joshua Kelley, DeWayne McBride, Latavius Murray, Jordan Mason.
Rounds 10 and Beyond Takeaways:
- Consider “what if” scenarios for late-round players, focusing on their range of outcomes.
- Target talented players who are discounted due to their situations.
- Don’t overvalue early-season opportunities versus talent.
- Target players who can benefit from injuries to teammates.
- Look for late-round WRs who have commanded a high end of their team’s air yards or have high aDOTs.
- Be aggressive in drafting rookies, especially rookie WRs.
- If you missed out on a quality TE early, target multiple TEs in the late rounds.
- Consider late-round QBs with favorable early-season schedules.